How to Clean Plastic

There are several different types of plastic. These plastics are used to make many different kinds of objects. While some plastics can withstand high temperatures of heat, others are not as heat-resistant. In order to learn how to clean plastic effectively, it's important to identify the type of plastic you wish to clean. Not only will this aid in sanitizing plastic, but it will prevent plastic from becoming damaged.

Polypropylene Plastic: Recycling Code 5

Clean plastic cups in the dishwasher
    Ketchup bottles, plastic cutlery, containers, cups.
  1. Place polypropylene plastic bottles or containers (with a recycling code "5" on its underside) into your dishwasher. Because polypropylene plastic has a high melting point, it can usually withstand hot liquid.

  2. Wash polypropylene plastic cutlery by hand or in the dishwasher.

  3. Read the labels on polypropylene containers and cups to ensure that they're dishwasher friendly. While most of these plastic cups and containers can be washed in the dishwasher, some must be washed by hand.

Polyethylene Terephalate: Recycling Code 1

    Soft drink bottles, water bottles, mouthwash bottles, salad dressing containers.
  1. Clean empty plastic soft drink bottles for craft use or recycling. Rinse the bottle out with tap water to prevent it from becoming sticky.

  2. Wash disposable plastic water bottles by hand and refill with water or juice. Most water bottles that fall under recycling code "1" can not withstand high heat from the dishwasher, as they're intended for single use.

  3. Rinse mouthwash bottles and salad dressing containers to remove remnants of the previous product. Soak the bottles in a sink full of hot, soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry prior to reuse.

Polycarbonate Plastic: Recycling Code 7

    Five-gallon water bottles, sunglasses,
  1. Wash large plastic resin materials by hand. If items are too large to be washed in the kitchen sink, use a wash basin or the garden hose--in combination with antibacterial dish soap.

  2. Place smaller plastic resin objects such as food containers, in the dishwasher for a thorough cleansing.

  3. Clean delicate polycarbonate plastic materials, such as sunglasses by hand. Use a solution of warm water and mild dish soap. Rinse thoroughly and wipe dry with a clean, soft towel.


  • To avoid fading and discoloration, you may wish to clean plastic cutlery by hand.
  • Instead of assuming that plastic is diswasher-safe, identify the recycling code and use your best judgment. Whenever in doubt, wash by hand.